Mining the News (10/26/22)

Kodai Senga and Shintaro Fujinami, both from Japan, are likely to sign with a major league club this offseason.

Right-hander Kodai Senga is planning to trigger the opt-out in his contract with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and become a free agent, according to a report from Sankei Sports (Japanese language link). Senga and the club agreed to a five-year extension back in December, though that contract contained an opt-out clause after the first season. Senga will be a free agent and won’t be subject to the MLB-NPB posting system. It was reported in August that Senga planned to pursue MLB opportunities this winter and it now seems he will follow through on those plans.

and

The Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball are going to make right-hander Shintaro Fujinami available to MLB clubs this offseason via the posting system, according to a report from Kyodo News. Back in September, reports from Japan (Japanese link from Sponichi Annex and English link from The Japan Times) relayed his desire to attempt the move to North America. It now seems that the club will grant him his wish.

Here are the ZiPS projections for both.

ZiPS Projections for Senga & Pujinami
Name Age G GS IP ERA WHIP K/9 BB/9
Kodai Senga 30 22 22 140 3.54 1.18 10.7 3.5
Shintaro Fujinami 29 24 12 96 3.70 1.33 10.4 4.2

Senga is definitely the more interesting of the two.

• I’ve continued to update the hitters who played through an injury list.

American League

Blue Jays

• John Schneider will be the Blue Jays manager.

A multiyear pact between Schneider and the Blue Jays always seemed like the most likely outcome when he took over as manager in an interim capacity on July 13 after the team fired Charlie Montoyo. The team went 46-28 under Schneider’s leadership. And it seemed especially likely earlier this month when Atkins told reporters “it will be very difficult for us to find better than John Schneider,” during his season-ending media availability.

I thought this might lead to a big stolen base bump for the entire team. All of Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s eight stolen bases came after Schneider took over. It seems like Vlad was the only player running. Before swapping managers, the team had 33 SB in 3328 PA. After Schneider took over, it was 34 SB in 2830 PA. A small overall increase and the numbers would have been down if it wasn’t for Vlad.

Guardians

José Ramírez is to have surgery for a torn thumb ligament and Andrés Giménez will not have surgery on a fractured finger he played through.

Ramírez is scheduled to have surgery to repair the torn ligament in early November in Dayton.

In other injury news, second baseman Andrés Giménez was dealing with a non-displaced fracture in his left thumb over the last month. It will not require surgery and is expected to fully heal in a couple of weeks. Giménez was plunked by 25 pitches this season, most in the American League.

Mariners

Matt Brash will be used out of the bullpen next season.

Dipoto fielded this question last week and made it clear that Brash will be part of the bullpen moving forward. That doesn’t mean the team has shut the door on him ever starting again, but it’s abundantly clear his biggest impact at this point would come as a reliever and not a starter.

He performed better as a reliever than as a starter. Editor Note: I bet he’s done starting.

Role: ERA, xFIP, WHIP, K/9
Starter: 7.65, 4.80, 2.05, 8.6
Reliever: 2.35, 2.99, 1.24, 12.6

Tigers

Spencer Torkelson got overwhelmed with data and will go back to his old approach.

Torkelson’s difficult rookie season came with some mental wear and tear. He admitted to getting overloaded with video and data, searching too hard for a solution. On multiple occasions, he slammed down his bat and cursed after a strikeout or popup. It was strange at times, to see a generally positive and laid-back guy stuck in the mud.

In the meantime, Torkelson says he will trust his swing, will stick to much of what got him here. He will focus on his plate approach and the mental side of the game. He set small goals for the final month of the season. One of them was simply to show up to work with confidence every day.

• The team will have a new hitting department.

The Tigers are expected to overhaul their hitting department and make changes at the big-league level and maybe beyond. So it might be up to the new staff to lay out a plan for Torkelson going forward.

Tarik Skubal will not be ready by Opening Day.

On one hand, the Tigers have a budding talent, potentially even an ace, who could give next year’s team a summer jolt. On the other, Skubal almost surely won’t be ready for Opening Day.

National League

Cardinals

Andrew Knizner and Iván Herrera are in line to take over the catching duties.

Molina’s retirement after 19 seasons signaled a new era in St. Louis, with Andrew Knizner and prospect Iván Herrera the top internal candidates to take over.

Cubs

Keegan Thompson’s role is not set for next season.

Thompson has never once suggested that he preferred starting. Whenever asked, he seemed happy to do whatever he could and understands that today’s game values relievers, especially those who can work multiple innings, much more than a decade ago.

While he did make 17 starts and at times looked strong in the role, Thompson was utterly dominant as a reliever. Over 12 outings and 36 2/3 innings out of the bullpen, Thompson had a 1.47 ERA, 30 percent strikeout rate, 0.90 WHIP and held opponents to a .480 OPS. His walks were a bit elevated at 10 percent, but the rest of his game balanced that well and his value in being able to eat three and even four innings in an outing can’t be ignored.

• It took a while for Seiya Suzuki to adjust to life as an MLB regular.

The off-the-field challenges really can’t be overstated. Suzuki moved to a city that has a 14-hour time difference from his home country. He left family and friends, packed up with his pregnant wife and came to a place where communication for him is a legitimate hurdle. While in Japan, travel during the season was minimal in a country smaller than the state of California. The distance and time in planes alone would be jarring for Suzuki, and manager David Ross pointed out that there were road trips where the time change would impact Suzuki’s sleep schedule more than other players.

“The stretch where he struggled you saw a lot of timing issues,” Ross said. “Him playing with leg kicks and spreading out and being a little bit taller. Just (learning) how to see the ball and get off his A swing as quickly as possible, maybe feeling for it a little bit. You kind of saw when he got locked in, the timing looked better and he was all connected in the box mechanically. You saw more aggressive swings, right-center, left-center power.”

Nationals

• The Nats are planning on Luis García, CJ Abrams, and Victor Robles starting next season.

“So you’re talking about adding maybe one or two more starters, and I think with doing that, with CJ [Abrams], Luis [García] in the middle, Victor [Robles] playing center field every day, I think we’re definitely going to get better.”

Cade Cavalli and MacKenzie Gore are supposed to be ready to start the season but Stephen Strasburg’s status is up in the air.

Cavalli and Gore are expected to be ready for Spring Training, while there is no timetable for Strasburg.

At the end of the season, general manager Mike Rizzo said the 2023 expectations for the 34-year-old right-hander are “still a little bit of a mystery.” Strasburg has pitched just 31 1/3 innings over the past three years — including only one start this season — while battling through a series of injuries. He is recovering from a stress reaction in his ribs after having undergone thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in 2021. The Nats will continue to monitor Strasburg’s rehab leading up to Spring Training. Said Rizzo: “We’re just going to have to see with the type of surgery and rehab that he’s had, it’s unfamiliar to us — it’s unfamiliar to a lot of people — and we’re just going to have to take it day by day.”

Padres

Nick Martinez could be signed as a starter or reliever depending on a team’s needs.

MLBTR’s Steve Adams took a detailed look at the situation last month, noting that Martinez’s strong performance out of the bullpen made that an interesting call. Acee indicates Martinez could prioritize finding a rotation opportunity after working in a swing role this year. The 32-year-old started 10 of his first 12 outings but moved to the bullpen full-time in mid-June. At the time of his bullpen transfer, he had a 4.05 ERA with an average 21.9% strikeout rate and a slightly elevated 10.4% walk percentage.

Pirates

Malcom Nunez could start next season as the team’s first baseman or DH.

Malcom Nuñez, who was acquired in the José Quintana trade, has a power bat and modest defensive skills. In the minors last season, Nuñez hit a combined .262/.367/.466 with 23 homers. He is 21 and has played only five games at Triple A.

Some evaluators believe Nuñez projects best as a designated hitter, and the Pirates certainly need help at that spot too.

Rockies

Ryan Feltner added a sinker and changed up his slider.

In his 19th start in 20 Major League appearances, with trips to Triple-A Albuquerque in between, Feltner, 26, spent his rookie year harnessing his delivery, learning a new sinker and figuring out how to manipulate his slider. Rockies manager Bud Black and pitching coach Darryl Scott didn’t mind treating Feltner as a student in the Majors on the days between starts, because that student gives way to a fiery competitor.

His sinker had a 5% SwStr% and 57% GB% with his slider at 11% SwStr% (still below league average) and 31% GB%. The slider did drop a bit more in August and September because of less spin, but its results were worse (whiff rate dropping from around 30% to around 20%).

Besides the different pitches, he struggled with control after a mid-season back injury. His strikeouts dropped from 8.8 K/9 to 7.2 K/9 and his walk rate went from 2.1 BB/9 to 3.8 BB/9.

Antonio Senzatela is going to be out until May.

With Antonio Senzatela expected to be out until early May because of knee surgery, the Rockies head into the offseason sure of two rotation spots — veterans Kyle Freeland and Germán Márquez.





Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR once, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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WARonEverything
3 months ago

Isn’t a 14 hours time difference effectively a 10 hour time difference? I get what 14 hours means, but when you look at a clock it would only be 10 hours off right?